Des Moines Register. January 15, 2021.

Editorial: Spend the legislative session on things that will improve the lives of Iowans

After four years of control and furthering their agenda, it’s time for the majority party to focus on actually improving life for average people

During the past four years, Republicans controlling the Iowa Legislature and governor’s office busted unions, created obstacles to voting, defunded women’s health clinics and passed abortion bans that got tied up in court.

Now that they’ve gotten those and other misguided priorities out of their systems, perhaps they could focus this year on one goal: improving the quality of life for average Iowans.

With that in mind, lawmakers should:

Finally fund the outdoors

It has been more than a decade since Iowa voters overwhelmingly supported amending the Iowa Constitution to create a trust fund dedicated to conservation and recreation. Lawmakers were supposed to follow up by increasing the sales tax a fraction of a penny to fund the trust.

Year after year, they refused.

Iowa’s trust does not have a single penny to address soil erosion, filthy waterways, crumbling state landmarks, recreational trails and destroyed wetlands that contribute to flooding.

Republicans seem to believe a tiny sales tax increase — three-eighths of 1 cent — must be offset by a tax cut. They are wrong. They argue the small amount would burden shoppers. Wrong again.

Iowa needs new revenue to fund the outdoors. Iowans cooped up by the coronavirus pandemic have flooded trails and parks, underscoring the importance of outdoor amenities to physical and mental well-being. An investment in Mother Nature is an investment in this state’s economy, families and the future.

Expand child care assistance

The same politicians who insist every pregnant woman be forced to give birth refuse to recognize parents must work to earn money. That requires someone to care for the children.

Lawmakers should finally lift the eligibility cap for parents to receive government assistance to pay for child care. They can also make changes to ensure low-income families don’t abruptly lose assistance when they get a pay raise.

Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

Access to affordable, quality child care is a basic need for Iowa families and can help the state attract businesses, retain residents and make it possible for parents to earn a living.

Get serious about mental health

There is nothing like the isolation and job losses of this pandemic to underscore the need for mental health services.

While Iowa invested a portion of its federal coronavirus funding into its mental health system, this state needs a stable source of revenue going forward. That includes money for a statewide children’s mental health system. Lawmakers patted themselves on the back for creating this in 2019, but then — surprise — failed to fund it.

Legislators also must abandon short-sighted attempts to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. This would lead to Iowans losing health insurance, the very thing needed to cover the cost of psychiatrists, counselors and other services.

Invest in government and education

Iowans rely on government for everything from street repair and police response to disaster relief and food assistance. Taxpayer-financed parks, libraries, public lands and other shared resources raise the standard of living for all Iowans.

And what could be more important to Iowa’s future than providing an educational foundation for our children? Yet this state repeatedly underfunds K-12 education. It also provides less and less support to higher education as a percentage of universities’ budgets, shifting more of the cost burden to families.

That trend should be reversed so Iowans can obtain the education they need to participate in a 21st-century workforce — and so parents and young people are not saddled with student loan debt.

Ban racial profiling

Police are the entry point into the criminal justice system. Yet Iowa lawmakers have repeatedly refused to send this simple message: We will not tolerate law enforcement targeting Black people.

In October, a state working group on criminal justice set up by Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended a law that would ban and track instances of racial profiling by law enforcement.

Pass it. Sign it into law. And while you’re at it, adequately fund the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, an agency responsible for enforcing the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

A tax cut is not going to improve life for the average Iowan. Neither is less access to birth control, exempting more children from vaccines, limiting financial awards in lawsuits or other fringe shenanigans some GOP lawmakers pursue year after year.

Iowans have had enough stress and disruption the past 10 months. How about giving people something to look forward to that makes life a little easier?


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. January 15, 2021.

Editorial: Care center workers should reconsider vaccination

It was disheartening to learn this week that at several area long-term-care centers, about half or fewer of the staffers have agreed to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

That includes the Dubuque County-run Sunnycrest Manor, where just 46% of workers took the vaccine when given the opportunity, despite the cajoling of the facility’s interim administrator.

Education, discussion and encouragement are about the only tools at the disposal of care center officials when it comes to convincing workers to get vaccinated. Employees at these facilities play a vital role in the health care system in jobs that aren’t easy to fill.

Sunnycrest isn’t alone — Luther Manor Communities in Dubuque County and Bell Tower Retirement assisted-living facility in East Dubuque, Ill., faced a similar lukewarm response from staffers.

The same scenario is playing out in some nursing homes across the country. Employees at those sites generally have expressed concern about the rapid development of the vaccine, even though experts say those fears are unfounded.

The position is a stark contrast to the feelings of the patients for which these employees care and the loved ones of those patients, most of whom are eager for the vaccine and a potential reuniting with family. At Sunnycrest, 90 of the 91 residents were signed up for the vaccine.

With a death toll at more than 350,000, the top medical experts in the country are leading the effort to get at least 70% to 85% of the U.S. population vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity.” Here’s hoping those who work in our nation’s care facilities eventually will understand the importance of their decision and get vaccinated.

Those who work in these facilities care deeply for their patients. Getting a vaccine will benefit their patients and the greater good.

It’s a telling reality that Resources Unite already has distributed the usual annual budget for Dubuque County general assistance, just half-way into the fiscal year. The $128,000 allocated by the county to help provide rent, utilities and burial financial assistance has been exhausted with six months left.

What’s more, Resources Unite Executive Director Josh Jasper said the agency has seen 30% more applications in the past six months than in all of the last fiscal year.

County supervisors are asked to put more money toward general assistance to serve county residents through the rest of the fiscal year. Supervisors need to approve the funding.

Yes, the county must be judicious in its spending. Yes, Resources Unite must show a detailed accounting of how taxpayer dollars are spent. But if public money is ever called for to help out our fellow citizens, this is the year.

In a year when so many local businesses have struggled to remain successful, it’s compelling to hear about business stepping up to give back to a community in need.

That kind of story played out recently in Elkader, Iowa, when two companies paired up to repair a broken gate on the Turkey River dam.

Sister companies Mobile Track Solutions and C.J. Moyna & Sons, both owned by Elkader resident John P. Moyna, collaborated to complete the repairs.

Anyone who has been to Elkader knows the double-arched stone bridge is a landmark in the Clayton County community. Only the floodgates on the dam have not worked for decades, and the city hasn’t been able to pay for the expensive repair.

Enter the in-house engineering team at Mobile Track Solutions who designed and manufactured a replacement gate using reinforced steel. C.J. Moyna & Sons installed it over two days in December.

It’s not often that businesses can provide a gift that helps an entire community, but this effort in Elkader did just that. A salute to Mobile Track Solutions and C.J. Moyna & Sons for a dam well done.


Fort Dodge Messenger. January 15, 2021.

Editorial: Time to wait out the storm safely

Staying indoors is best bet, while drivers must exercise caution

To paraphrase a popular song often heard during the holidays, the weather outside is in deed frightful

We Iowans, however, are a hardy bunch. We’re used to some heavy duty winter storms.

And many of us know that the best way to deal with terrible winter weather is to not deal with it at all. In other words, stay inside. The current storm provides a good chance to stay indoors, play a game with the kids and catch up on your reading.

Forget about shoveling snow. That is a very strenuous activity that is hard on the hearts of even the most physically fit people. Every year in the United States, people die from heart attacks suffered while shoveling snow. So when the snow stops falling and blowing around, use a snow blower to clean up the sidewalks and driveways.

For those who must go out in the storm, the Iowa State Patrol urges patience and caution. Troopers also recommend that people drive only in daylight.

Once behind the wheel, people should drive slowly and increase the following distance between their vehicle and the one in front of it.

Those heading out on the road should keep emergency supplies in their vehicle, including flashlights, blankets or sleeping bags, water, food and a shovel.

We urge everyone to stay both warm and safe. We think staying indoors is the best solution. We urge those who do have to venture out to be cautious and follow all recommended safety precautions.